D-Von Dudley’s in-ring days may be behind him, but the decorated tag team wrestler still contributes to professional wrestling on the daily as a producer.
Despite enjoying his current gig as a member of WWE’s backstage personnel, D-Von says it took some time getting used to.
“Just for the record, I never wanted to stop wrestling. I never wanted to be a producer backstage for WWE,” D-Von told The Cut Pro Wrestling Podcast. “I enjoy it now but it took me some years to actually embrace it and like it. Bubba decided during that 2016 run that the Dudley Boys were not being treated fair in terms of the position we were in. And I get it to a certain degree but you have to understand, the Attitude Era was gone. And I even said that to him – ‘It’s gone, it’s not coming back.'”
The Dudley Boyz are one of the most successful tag teams in wrestling history. D-Von and Bubba Ray have collected championships in WWE, ECW, TNA, NJPW, and countless other promotions.
While the two were always on the same page inside the squared circle, D-Von says the two had different perspectives on the Dudleys’ 2015 return to WWE.
“I’m not coming back to WWE to relive the Attitude Era. In my opinion and my opinion only, in terms of between the both of us, I didn’t feel that way, like he felt,” D-Von said. “Like they were messing up the legacy that we chose. A title doesn’t mean anything at this point and stage of the game when you’ve won 24 already. So to have another title that says you’re the tag team champion at that point didn’t really mean anything. What meant to me coming back to WWE was helping the young talent out, being able to pass that torch and go back to a place that I felt, back in 2005, that we didn’t leave the right way. There was still some stuff left on the table that I felt we had to come back to WWE in order for me to finish out my career the way I wanted to.”
The Dudleys returned to WWE at the RAW after SummerSlam 2015 and immediately entered a program with the WWE Tag Team Champions at the time, The New Day. After a series of unsuccessful challenges, Bubba Ray and D-Von had sporadic feuds with the Wyatt Family, the Usos, and Enzo and Cass.
The duo would depart WWE a little over a year after they returned. D-Von made his way back to the company a month later as a producer, but Bubba Ray had moved on completely due to creative frustration. The former TNA World Champion wanted to bring his popular Bully Ray character to WWE screens, but Vince McMahon was not interested.
“There was a contract given to us after the second run [from 2015-16] and Bubba didn’t want to sign it. He wanted to do the Bully Ray character and Vince said no,” D-Von said. “He didn’t want that, he wanted the Dudleys. He didn’t want us to break up. Regardless to what we did in 2002 when we broke up, it still lay fresh in their minds that we were better as a tag team. It’s his sandbox, you have to play in his sandbox or go home.
“I knew coming back we weren’t going to be the top of the food chain. Although the respect we got from the locker room was tremendous, at the same token, I knew my role in coming back was to help the younger talent and help them get over. And in order for that to happen, we got to lay down and we got to do things we probably don’t want to do. But again, that’s Vince’s philosophy and Vince’s sandbox and you got to play by his rules.”
D-Von put pen to paper as soon as a new deal was offered, but Bubba held out.
“Well, Bubba didn’t want to play fair. And I know Bubba will have his own opinion about what happened, but again, that’s the majority of it. They gave us both the contract. I signed it. He didn’t want to sign it and it left a bad taste in their mouth,” D-Von said. “And by the time he was ready to sign it, some time had already went by. Let me give you a timeline: when Shane McMahon came back in Detroit, that was when I signed the deal. That was in March. So the deal actually came to us in February of that year. Now they’ve been trying to get us to sign it and Bubba wouldn’t sign it.
“Now all of a sudden we go forward and I’ve signed it and he hasn’t because there’s still things he felt he had to take care of on his side. By the time he got through that, the company was like, ‘Nah, we don’t want it anymore. We’re not dealing with the headaches.’ And they decided not to do it.
“It wasn’t like the WWE did a bad thing by us. Let me put it to you this way – they gave us a contract that was great, and at 44 and 45 years of age, I even told Bubba, ‘We need to take the money and just go. We’re not gonna get another opportunity like this again. We just need to sign this contract and do another year. If you don’t do another year after it, don’t do it. I’ll go on my own.’ But I couldn’t make him sign it.”
The longtime tag partners went their separate ways in 2016, with D-Von producing for WWE and Bubba Ray competing for Ring of Honor. According to D-Von, the two “do not do business anymore,” but he has no hard feelings towards Bubba.
“I wish him nothing but the best. We do not do business anymore. There’s no hard feelings and I don’t have any animosity towards him. It’s just he’s doing his thing and I’m doing my thing,” D-Von said. “Bubba and I are not at odds with each other. We don’t hate one another. We just went different ways like most tag teams do. This is not a Marty Jannetty and Shawn Michaels thing where we hate each other. We don’t. We just had a difference of opinions at that time and we went our separate ways. Even the wrestling school, he has the wrestling school in Connecticut, I have the one in Winter Park over here. So we both individually own our wrestling schools but we just do things separate now. That’s all.”
Even though Bubba Ray had moved on, D-Von was eager to continue wrestling inside a WWE ring. Despite his best wishes, producing was the only avenue the company had available for him.
“I never wanted to stop. I even went to them and said, ‘Hey, listen. I’m not ready to become a producer, there’s still a lot left in me,’ and they said, ‘Well you know the old man, you know how he is. He wanted the Dudleys and Bubba didn’t play fair, so we’re gonna give you this opportunity to stay with the company,'” D-Von said. “So I looked at it, and it was Triple H, and I said, ‘Do I have a choice?’ and he said, ‘No, not really.’ At that point I was going through a divorce and I would have loved to have gone back to Japan to finish my career, but going through a divorce at the time and having to travel 17 or 18 hours on a plane to Japan every week was not what I wanted to do. So I had to weigh my options and say, okay, here we go. I guess I’ll stay here and become a producer.”
Regardless of the rocky start, D-Von emphasized how much he enjoys working with the various tag teams in a producing capacity.
“I hated it at first, I didn’t like it. Now, I’ve grown into it,” D-Von said. “Working with guys like the Usos, the New Day, even Rey and Dominik, the Viking Raiders, The Bludgeon [Brothers], I had great matches with those guys in the ring with them as well as producing their matches. I felt that I was wrong again and not getting the opportunity to wrestle continuously, but you know it is what it is.”